Friday, 12 October 2018

On Warbands

These days, I'm almost entirely a Fantasy wargamer, and that's largely down to the fact that I can build a warband exactly the way I want it. Well, that and I have far too many Fantasy figures to get through before I can justify buying anything else (War of Spanish Succession, you will be mine... one day).

When I say 'build a warband', I really just mean figure selection rather than creating a list in accordance with the rules I'm planning on using. That said, the freedom offered by many Fantasy games (e.g. Song of Blades and Heroes or Frostgrave) means that I can almost entirely ignore the rules and focus on the toys I want to use. There are so many Fantasy figures and ranges out there that you can find almost anything you're after, cherry-picking your purchases to create the exact warband or force you're after. This is especially (and increasingly) true of multi-part plastics, which I love combining to product just what I'm imagining (hands down my favourite part of the hobby...).

Anyway, I was reading an RPG book the other day, and spotted a piece of artwork that really struck me - it was a reflection of exactly what I want in a warband.

Art from RiotMinds' LexOccultum

We have a leader (seated on throne), a magic-user (crouched in the bottom-left of the image), three soldiers with a mix of ranged and melee weapons (the two musketeers and the swordsman crouched in the bottom-right), a specialist or bodyguard type (the warrior in top-left), and a large creature and handler (right). For me, this is the perfect warband line-up, and what I attempt to represent when I'm mucking around with figures. Pulling together seven or eight figures (my big guys don't usually have handlers, but that said...) is achievable. It's (usually) affordable, but still offers plenty of kitbashing opportunities if I desire. I'm also unlikely to get bored working on several very similar figures, which increases my chances of finishing the project!

It's strange that a piece of art from an RPG should so perfectly encapsulate my preferences for wargaming - and that it should light a fire under me in terms of wanting to get some warbands built!

Disclaimer: All links to third-party sites are solely for the purposes of sourcing the models/components I have used or discussed, if anyone is so inclined. I have simply linked to the original manufacturer (but feel free to shop around!) and make no money from people clicking through.

Friday, 14 September 2018

I Wrote a Thing

It's been a while since I wrote anything (two years since Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier, and nearly four since the original volume!), but February sees the release of my latest, and much more modest, venture into putting pen to paper.

Frostgrave: The Wizards' Conclave is a collection of scenarios and adventures for Joseph A. McCullough's Frostgrave skirmish game, written by some of the biggest names in wargaming... and me! Joe has rounded up an all-star team of contributors for this one, and the scenarios they've written are incredible.

I am honoured that Joe asked me to write a scenario for him, and I am beyond proud to share an author's credit with designers of such pedigree. I just hope that my contribution doesn't let the side down!

Joe has commented on the book a little more here, and his blog is the best place to check for more information as the release date creeps closer...

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Bucket List: Dr Shotgun

A few weeks ago, I decided to finally check off something that's been on my bucket list for some time – to get my very own model sculpted.

I dropped Giorgio Bassani a line to pick his brains about it. I've worked with Giorgio a fair bit on figures for the various Frostgrave lines, and the stuff he's been doing recently has just been phenomenal. Amazingly, he had enough time in his schedule to squeeze in a 28mm figure, and I jumped at the chance!

First thing was a concept – that was easy. A generic gunman with relatively low-key equipment, for use as a zombie survivor, a Delta Green agent, STALKER, or whatever merc-of-the-week was called for. Next, I put together a brief document outlining what I was looking for – costume, equipment etc. – and included some reference images to give Giorgio a starting point. Again, this was simple – I knew a flat cap was a must, ditto a shotgun, and the rest just fell together as I started pulling images.

That done, I left it with Giorgio until, a week or two later, I received a work in progress sculpt with the pose and everything blocked out.

The work-in-progress sculpt

I approved that, and Giorgio started putting in the details, and turning my concept into a full-blown little masterpiece (well, I'm biased, but I think it's great!).

The finished thing!

I chatted to Nick at North Star a line about getting him cast up, and over the conversation, we came up with the idea of offering him as a promo figure for Ash Barker's forthcoming Last Days: Zombie Apocalypse ruleset. And, lo and behold...

Not only has my little guy come a long way from a spur-of-the-moment whim, but he's also been christened Dr Shotgun! I could not be happier with how he's come out, and I hope he finds his way onto tables all over the world.

If anyone would like to get their own Dr Shotgun figure, pre-order Last Days through North Star (link). The figure's a freebie, so I'm not making any money off that shameless plug, but it's a great game, and worth checking out! If you'd like to learn more about Last Days, the Facebook group (link) is a great place to start.

Will I commission any more figures now I've got this out my system? Probably not. Am I tempted? Oh, definitely...

Monday, 23 April 2018


Now, I'm nothing if not awkward. The moment my colleague, Chris (check out his blog here), finished building a Ghost Archipelago board for shows and conventions, I was struck with a bug to do some terrain building too...

I'd got hold of a load of GF9's Battlefield in a Box badlands terrain a while back (a couple of years, judging by the dust on the boxes), and had never done anything with them. The main reason for this was the colour - a dark brownish-red. It just didn't go with the boards we had at the time, or with the games we were playing. Having been inspired by some of the forthcoming Ghost Archipelago material, I revisited the terrain I had, and looked to finally do something with it.

First stop was my local homewares store, where I found a doormat in what turned out to be almost perfect colours. It's not too fluffy, so figures sit on it perfectly, and has a rubber back, so it lies nice and flat. Sure, it lacks the texture of printed wargaming mats, but it's going to be covered in terrain anyway. Total size is about 2.8ft x 3ft, so not quite square, but bang in the ballpark for the scale of games I like playing.

The various rocks and bluffs from the badlands range had a bit of static grass added, and were then varnished. That's it. There are a few chips in the resin that I should probably have spotted and touched up beforehand, but... meh. They're barely visible from any kind of distance.

All told, it's not bad, even if it needs a lot more jungle terrain to give it some pop before it's finished. The huts are also from GF9, though I'm less keen on them - they're just so big (the largest is about the same height as the tallest of the bluffs!). It'll also work nicely for Wild West, SF or Post-Apoc games with the addition of some appropriate structures.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Generic SWAT

I've had the GW Primaris Reivers for a while now, with the vague plan of using their stripped-down Marine look for more generic SF troops. The UK has recently had a spate of snow, and I spent a weekend ensconced with various TV boxed sets and a pile of sprues. The Expanse, Killjoys, and Altered Carbon, especially, have a lot to answer for, and I decided to build a few generic SF SWAT-type guys using the long-ignored Reivers.

First decision was easy - lose the classic Marine look supplied by the backpacks and shoulder-pads and carve off the skulls on their chest armour. I did toy with keeping the helmets, with their new skull-like masks, but I wanted something more generic than that! Fortunately, I had a pile of bits from the GW Tempestus Scions, and grabbed a few of their helmets. This also had the effect of making the large Reivers (those are 40mm bases!) look more like guys in bulky suits rather than immense super-soldiers.

Outside of a choice of pistol and sword or bolt-carbine, I didn't have much to think about - the kit goes together really nicely. The most work I had to do was filling a hole in the back of the torso that would normally be covered by the backpack with a mix of sprue shavings and polystyrene cement.

Painting was, deliberately, simple. I wanted a classic dark, plain, look with just the eyes as a spot colour, so out came the greys. I picked out a few details (belt clips, magazines, gun barrels etc.) with silver and diverged from the original plan a little by painting their webbing dark brown rather than black. Final touch was the eyes - red touched up with orange for a nice Helghast effect.

Well-camouflaged against the local terrain...

I rather enjoyed doing these guys. Whatever else they do, GW make some nice toys. I have another 4 still on the sprues (there are 5 per sprue, but I really dislike one of the poses), and might see if I can find some bitz from other Primaris kits to allow me to give them some heavier weaponry.

Disclaimer: All links to third-party sites are solely for the purposes of sourcing the models/components I have used or discussed, if anyone is so inclined. I have simply linked to the original manufacturer (but feel free to shop around!) and make no money from people clicking through.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Stalk This Way

I'm a fan of the 'Eastern European Apocalypse' settings of video games such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and Metro 2033 (not to mention the Pripyat level in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare - perhaps the single finest game level ever made!), and the original inspirations for them - Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic (set in Canada, mind you) and Dimitry Glukhovsky's Metro 2033 novels.

I do love the Lead Adventure minis designed for these kinds of settings, but I much prefer to work with plastic than with metal. So, when I was mucking around with some spare sprues recently, enjoying a bit of kitbashing for kitbashing's sake, I started slotting together some Warlord Bolt Action WWII and modern plastics (from their zombie range) to make some modern-ish figures. Pleased with the fit of the pieces, I decided to take a little break from Fantasy and indulge my interest by building some Stalkers.
There is a clip in that AK... honest!

I started off with what I had lying around - Warlord USMC and Airborne (acquired as part of a half-arsed attempt to build a Crimson Skies-style 'fractured USA in the 30s' force. Unfortunately, these guys didn't have the cold-weather feel that I really wanted, so I bought some Winter Soviets, giving me a ready supply of greatcoats and fur hats.I also grabbed some modern special forces as a source for weapons and less old-fashioned-looking kit.

This guy, then, is my first completed Stalker, and incorporates parts from pretty much all of my source kits: greatcoated body, satchel, and spade from the Soviet infantry, rifle arm from the special forces, head and backpack from the USMC, and left arm from the Airborne. All goes together nicely, though my one real gripe is that the neck joint is a bit on the tight side for the USMC heads. The special forces arms are a little more slender than the WWII stuff, but not so much that it's glaringly obvious.

Painting was a doddle - my wash-heavy style isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and it suits post-apocalyptic figures more than it would some (F&IW French, for example...). I wanted something civilian, but vaguely military (military surplus, really!) with the kitbash, and carried this through to the painting - mismatched gear, a military-looking green poncho on top of the rucksack, civilian cap etc.

Just noticed the mote of dust on top of his hat... Curses!

The only real bugbear was weathering the boots and the bottom of the greatcoat to look grubby - easy enough to apply, but it took a couple of attempts to stop it looking as though he'd been wading through a river of mud!

All told, I'm really happy with him. The mix of modern and WWII parts worked out to give the overall effect I was after and I'm pleased that I trusted to my gut and added a few more pouches (much like a Rob Liefield character design, you can never go wrong with more pouches) to lend a feel of being seriously prepared. Mixed in with the other couple of Stalkers I have under way, he's going to look like a real grizzled survivor of the Zone.

I'm now starting to doubt that there is actually a clip in that rifle...

Disclaimer: All links to third-party sites are solely for the purposes of sourcing the models/components I have used or discussed, if anyone is so inclined. I have simply linked to the original manufacturer (but feel free to shop around!) and make no money from people clicking through.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

LuchaScores: Off the Beaten Path

I have a soft spot for movies that take established genres and transplant them to a different setting, preferably a quirky or unusual one. This is probably why I like Bruce Willis' Last Man Standing as much as I do - a transplant of Kurosawa's Yojimbo from feudal Japan to Prohibition-era Texas, by way of Clint Eastwood's Spaghetti Westerns. So, when I saw news on Jesse V. Johnson's Savage Dog, a revenge movie set in Vietnam between the French Indochina and Vietnam wars, my spidey sense started tingling...

Savage Dog

Directed by: Jesse V. Johnson
Starring: Scott Adkins, Marko Zaror, Cung Le, Juju Chan, Vladimir Kulich & Keith David 

Savage Dog is the story of Martin Tillman (Scott Adkins), an Irish boxer, ex-Legionnaire, and ex-IRA man. We first meet him in the jail of a rural police outpost where he fights in bare-knuckle boxing matches for the benefit of the prison's overlords, a corrupt group of ex-Legionnaires ruled with an iron fist by The 13th Warrior's Vladimir Kulich, and including Chilean martial artist Marko Zaror, and a Vietnamese Army officer played by former MMA fighter Cung Le. Thereafter, chaos ensues, with Tillman going from bare-knuckle prison fighter to one-man-army.


What can I say? I really enjoyed this film. Sure, the acting wasn't always great, and some of the CGI used during the fights was a little shonky, but it was great fun! The villains were villainous, the hero was... effective, if not heroic, and the setting lent it something that set it apart from most B-Movies of this type.

Looking for a moment at the villains, I can't remember the last time a movie like this did such a good job making them stand out. You expect a certain 'levelling up' in movies like this - with the hero progressing from low-level mooks to sub-bosses, and thence to the big bad - and we get it to a degree, but each of the 'sub-bosses' are distinct characters. There's the cowardly older Petain supporter who acts as the cabal's accountant, a former Spanish Blue Division killer (Zaror), an ex-SS man in hiding (Kulich), and a Vietnamese paratroop officer (Cung Le). I appreciated the variety of backgrounds, and the Foreign Legion offered a logic for why such a disparate group would be all together (something often missing in movies like this). Vive la Légion, says I! There's also a surprising complexity to them - Kulich's SS man has a difficult relationship with his daughter (Juju Chan), who is, almost inevitably, Tillman's love interest and motivation for going on a revenge spree; Cung Le's officer is just doing it to get money for his family, and even though Tillman gives him the chance to walk away (which would have deprived us of one of the best fight scenes in the whole film), he still throws down. Marko Zaror's Rastignac is the most irredeemably villainous of the bunch, a knife-fighter known as "the executioner", and represents the sternest test for Tillman. Surprisingly, as the Big Bad, he's a little bland - a generic psycho, really. Cracking fighter, though!

"Don't smile... don't smile..."

Scott Adkins as the hero is good enough. The real hero, for me, though, is the setting. The entire plot of this movie could have been transferred to a classic Wild West or present-day setting (man goes on rampage against corrupt cattlemen/rogue special forces unit/crime syndicate/PMC outfit etc.) and it'd have been OK. Post-French, pre-Vietnam War Vietnam is great, though - the lawlessness and presence of huge amounts of firepower (any film that has an MG-42 being fired from the hip gets an additional half-star in my book!) make sense! It's also much prettier than New York's mean streets, the cowtowns of the Southwest, or the nameless Eastern European countries where a lot of equivalent movies take place. I really want to watch it again in a double-header with The Rebel, a Vietnamese movie set during the French colonial days in Vietnam (also highly recommended).

Still, it's a B-Movie. It's never going to win awards for acting or storytelling. What it is, however, is a standard story elevated by its villains and its setting. It's got flaws - the pacing is a little off at times, and Tillman is a fairly unlikable protagonist. I won't ruin it, but the conclusion of his feud with Zaror seems... excessive. Fitting, given the title, but I'm not sure how necessary it was. Speaking of the conclusion, there's the vague hint of a sequel, as the MI6 man who has been hunting Tillman (long story short, his sniffing around is what drives Kulich and the gang to release him from prison) recruits him for devastation and hijinks in the conflicts to come. I, for one, welcome more hijinks.

3.5 Luchas

While browsing for more films like Savage Dog, I stumbled across Buffalo Boys which, while a little sparse on information, looks to be an Indonesian western featuring two brothers taking on the VOC in the 1800s. The initial art releases are right up my street, and I'm looking forward to seeing more about it...